Pastor Al, the late-night parson, answers again...
Security Features and the Word of God|
Posted: 22 August 2009
The bank teller pulled two $50.00 bills out of our church deposit and regarded them suspiciously. They were both dated 1977, making them older than the teller.
She scrutinized both bills closely, rubbing them between her fingers and holding them up to the light. She grabbed her counterfeit detector pen, ran it across both bills and watched the marks carefully. They stayed yellow. She placed them in the currency counter behind her and it accepted both bills as genuine. She did it again.
Unsure of what to do, the teller called her supervisor over. The supervisor studied the bills and ran the detector pen across them again. Still not satisfied, she called the manager over who checked over the bills again before finally pronouncing them genuine.
The difficulty in authenticating the two bills stemmed from the fact that were printed prior to the Iranian revolution of 1979. Following the revolution, the fundamentalist Islamic regime embarked on an effort to destabilize American currency by counterfeiting American paper money and flooding the world with bogus bills. Consequently, the United States mint was forced to develop new security features. Some of the new features included micro-printing, color shifting inks, moiré patterns, watermarks, embedded silk threads, security threads, variable dot patterns, as well as design changes. These new features, largely missing from older notes, help authenticate American paper money and make it harder to counterfeit.
Now, this got me to thinking. There are a lot of claims and counterclaims between various religions in the world. Some claim to be the sole possessors of truth, while others claim that all truth is equal. Some even claim that there is no such thing as absolute or objective truth.
So what is truth? How are we supposed to determine who is right and who is wrong? How are we to judge what is real and what is counterfeit? Well, the answer is to do what our bank teller did, look for the security features.
For instance, the Bible claims to be truth. John 17:17 says, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." If this is true, then we ought to be able to find objective evidence independent of the Bible to support such a claim. Likewise for any other religion that claims their writings embody truth.
Well, the Bible claims just that. In Psalms 19:1 we read: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." In other words, the Bible claims that there is objective evidence supporting it, if we are willing to look for it.
Let's read on in Psalms 19. Verses 2-6 go on to say, "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof."
These verses not only claim that the heavens and the earth provide objective evidence, they claim that this evidence is available to all. It does not matter what time it is, who you are, or where you live, evidence exists to support the Bible's claims independent of the Bible itself.
Some of the evidence presented in this verse has to do with the sun. For instance, Psalm 19 claims that the sun has a "tabernacle" or dwelling place. Thanks to modern astronomy, we know that the sun does not wander or float aimlessly about the universe. It has a distinct dwelling place. It dwells in one of the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The Psalm goes on to say that the sun appears "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber". Now that doesn't mean that the sun comes out of a chamber. The statement is a simile. The appearance of the sun is compared to that of a eager bridegroom bursting forth from his room, fully dressed and ready for his wedding. And that is indeed the case. The sun doesn't gain strength as it rises in the sky, only to lose strength in the evening. It doesn't need to rest each night before beginning a new day. No, it rises each morning full of vim and vigor, just like "a bridegroom coming out of his chamber".
The next thing we read is that the sun "rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." This statement tells us that the sun is untiring, running a set course with speed and strength. The Psalm further tells us that the sun's "going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it". In other words, the course set for the sun is a great circle from one end of the heaven to the other.
Now the secular critic might say, "Aha! I have you there! That passage implies that the sun revolves around the earth. Everyone knows that the earth revolves around the sun!"
Well, good point. However, upon closer examination, that idea isn't necessarily clear from the passage. In fact, the passage actually evokes the image of a marathon race where many "strong men" are racing around a great circular track (it wouldn't be much of a race if just one "strong man" was running). And that image comports quite well with astronomer's estimates that our sun is moving at 13 miles per second, along with all its neighboring stars, in a great circuit around the center of the Milky Way.
The final part of the passage says of the sun, "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." While a powerful illustration of the presence of God, as mentioned in Psalms 139:7-8; "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.", I believe it also contains some objective evidence proving the reliability of the Scriptures.
Deep within the sun is a churning thermonuclear fusion furnace burning at an estimated 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at the core and heating the surface to 10,000oF. Incredibly vast quantities of energy stream forth from the sun every second. This stream of energy, in the form of light, radiation, and charged particles, continually bombards our planet, heating the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land. Nothing is hid, or, shall we say, unaffected by it.
Psalm 19's description of the sun, I believe, provides a security feature. A deeply embedded truth about the sun would have been unknown and unknowable to the Psalmist. A truth which helps authenticate the Bible.
Contrast that with what other religious writings claim. The Greeks and the Romans, for instance, believed that Helios drove a flaming chariot across the sky each day. For this reason, and many others, the Greek and Roman beliefs have been regulated to the realm of mythology. The heavens do not declare the glory of the Gods of Olympus, nor does the firmament show their handiwork.
The ancient Greek and Roman writings lack the security features that authenticate the true words of God. Therefore, we reject them as counterfeits. The same can be said for many other ancient religious writings.
Contrast the Bible's claims about the sun with those of the Qur'an, as well. The Qur'an claims to be the perfect book. If it is, can we authenticate the Qur'an in the same way that we authenticated the Bible by what it teaches about the sun?
Surah 18 tells of Alexander the Great, referred to as Dhu'l-Qarneyn, finding the place where the sun sets. In verses 86-87 we read, "And he followed a road till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout."
We read further in verses 90-91, "Then he followed a road till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom."
According to the Qur'an, the sun sets each night in a muddy spring and rises from another place the next morning. Apparently it must take the subway back home each night! If this were true, surely we could verify it by locating the muddy spring where the Qur'an claims the sun sets as well as the place from where it rises, not to mention its subterranean transit. Hey, if Alexander the Great could find it, surely we can too.
Far from embodying a scientific truth, unknown and unknowable to Muhammad, the Qur'an reflects the prevailing pagan beliefs of Seventh Century Arabia. And, lacking this security feature, not to mention many others, we can reject it as counterfeit.
Something to think about the next time you see a fifty dollar bill...
Bible Baptist Church, Richfield, Ohio